May 04, 2013

"Inuit chief" supports Washington Redskins

Native American Chief Talks About RedskinsSeveral months ago, Prince George’s County resident Stephen Dodson reached out to the Washington Redskins in an effort to share his perspective on the team name.

Dodson is a full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska, and said he was tired of being spoken for as a Native American.

“People are speaking for Native Americans that aren’t Native American. Being a full-blooded Indian with my whole family behind me, we had a big problem with all the things that were coming out [of the discussion],” he said. “I think they were basically saying that we were offended, our people were offended, and they were misrepresenting the Native American nation.

“We don’t have a problem with [the name] at all; in fact we’re honored. We’re quite honored.”

As the eldest member of his blood line, Dodson represents more than 700 remaining tribe members and talked to Redskins Nation about the positive power of the Redskins’ name.

“It’s actually a term of endearment that we would refer to each other as,” he explained. “When we were on the reservation, we would call each other, ‘Hey, what’s up redskin?’ We would nickname it just ‘skins.’”

“‘Redskin’ isn’t something given to us by the white man or the blue eyes, it was something in the Native American community that was taken from us. [It’s] used also as a term of respect, because that’s how we were. We respected each other with that term.”
Comment:  This is the first time I've heard anyone claim "redskin" originated in Native communities or was considered a term of respect.

Dodson's example makes it sound like a mocking, insulting "term of endearment"--like "shorty" or "lamebrain" or "chief." If he thinks differently, he should try it on an Indian he doesn't know. And let us know the results.

Is Dodson a liar?

Dodson claims to be "a full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska." Everything about this is suspect. Correct me if I'm wrong, but 1) I don't think Aleutians are Inuit and 2) I don't think the Inuit have "chiefs."

An Aleutian Facebook friend confirmed my beliefs:Inuit people don't reference themselves as chiefs, redskins, or Indians. Native American, yes. Our tribal governments are different from the Lower 48 tribes, because of the Alaska Native Land Claims Act. Aleuts and Inuit may have been related many centuries ago, but at the time of contact were two separate people with different languages and culture.A comment on this article on ICTMN offers a more plausible background on Dodson:Geddes Lindsay

I'd like to clear some stuff up here. I'm Stephen's uncle, he was raised by my brother, his eldest uncle, not his father. We are Aleut, not Inuit and he is 1/4, not full, as his mother, my sister, is only a half. Stephen isn't a "chief" but in the Air Force that was his nickname, as it was my brother's nickname in the Marine Corp. I'm not even sure Stephen has been to Alaska, to be honest about it all. I know my brother never went to Alaska while he was alive, none of my six siblings have, as far as I know. I have no problem with Stephen expressing his views or standing up for what he believes in, but let's keep it honest. We were all raised in the mid-west, in Oklahoma until my other sisters and I were forced to move to South Carolina to live with our sperm donor. I don't know if the person that wrote this interview embellished Stephen's stats or what, but the truth is as I have stated here. Stephen is a good man, a great father and I love him as a son. I know my brother loved him as a son because he adopted him as his own when our sister wasn't capable of taking care of him. I personally find the Redskins name offensive, but we don't always agree on things like this. I know some Indians that aren't offended by the Redskins name and more still that are. The fact remains that it is a racial slur and therefore wrong in my opinion.
If this is true--and there's no reason to believe it isn't--Dodson lied to the writer or the writer lied to the readers. Perhaps they both did.

This wasn't just a simple misunderstanding. Dodson spun a whole tale about being chief of 700 people who live on a reservation somewhere. Or the writer could've invented the tale, but that doesn't seem likely.

Either way, Dodson's testimony is a fraud. He doesn't represent 700 Aleutians who are fine with "redskins." He doesn't represent anyone except maybe his family in South Carolina, Maryland, or wherever.

Redskins fib again

It seems the Washington Redskins fibbed once again to shore up the faltering support for their racist nickname. The liars can't buy an honest defense of "Redskins" so they have to invent one.

Assuming that anyone who represents Natives is full-blooded or a chief is a common stereotype. So is assuming that any Alaska Native must be Inuit. That the Washington Redskins repeated these apparent falsehoods is enough to earn them a Stereotype of the Month entry.

And a demerit to ICTMN for repeating the "Inuit chief" claim, even though it put the words in quotes. As another commenter noted:Did Indian Country Today attempt to verify Dodson's status as an Alaskan "chief" before writing the headline, which takes his word for that status?Indeed. ICTMN should've included at least one disclaimer similar to what I wrote: that the Inuit aren't Aleutians and don't have chiefs.

For more on the Washington Redskins, see Cooperstown Changes "Redskins" to "Hawkeyes" and Hundt: "Redskins" Is Indecent.


Anonymous said...

When will people realize that just because someone has achieved some honor doesn't mean they can't be totally insane in some other way? (Among skeptics, this is actually called "Nobel disease".)

NativeSun said...

Not to mention the use of the word Inuit. No one goes by that here in Alaska or at least I've never heard that used here. That is with the exception from scholarly folk.. who aren't Native. What people will use is Eskimo or will, what my family does, be specific with either Inupiaq or Yupik. Up here in Alaska both Aleuts & Eskimos consider themselves to be Alaska Native and not Indians, which is used to describe Athabascans, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, as well as lower 48 Natives.

Thank you for following up on this one, it was really bothering me how this guy seemed to be all over the place..

Rob said...

A columnist researched "Chief" Dodson and confirmed that he's a phony:

Redskins' Indian-Chief Defender: Not A Chief, Probably Not Indian

The phrase "full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska," Loring added, is "incorrect terminology. It doesn't make sense."

What's more, both Kelly Eningowuk, executive director of the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska, an Inuit group, and Larry Merculieff, a prominent advocate for Aleut issues in Alaska, said "Chief" isn't a designation any of their constituents would use now. It certainly wouldn't be used by someone who's not living among Inuits or Aleuts. Both said such a title, if granted at all, would be conferred only upon individuals who were elected by people in their village. That would be tough in Bellefontaine (which, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, had a Native American population of 0.2 percent) or Prince George's County (0.5 percent).

"I don't know anybody out of state who describes themselves [as a chief]," Merculieff said.

Nor does Dodson’s self-description on the Redskins show as "a full-blooded Indian" pass the smell test.

"Aleuts do not call themselves 'Indian,'" Merculieff said. "We are native Alaskans, but not Indian."

And Inuits?

"Inuits don't call themselves 'Indian,'" said Eningowuk.

Eningowuk said she watched Dodson's performance online and laughed at some of his references to native culture. "I heard him say that [he and his family] go to pow wows? That’s not Aleut or Inuit," she said. "And he talks about living on a reservation of some sort. There are no Inuit or Aleut reservations in Alaska."